Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he’s Mr. Charles, her dad’s new boss at the oil and gas company, and he’s alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he’s a threat, but her father won’t believe her.
When Dad disappears the next day, leaving behind a message that says “Run!”, the siblings and Nizhoni’s best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Diné Holy People, all disguised as quirky characters. Their aid will come at a price: the kids must pass a series of trials in which it seems like nature itself is out to kill them. If Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery can reach the House of the Sun, they will be outfitted with what they need to defeat the ancient monsters Mr. Charles has unleashed. But it will take more than weapons for Nizhoni to become the hero she was destined to be . . .
Timeless themes such as the importance of family and respect for the land resonate in this funny, fast-paced, and exciting quest adventure set in the American Southwest.
“Who you are is always enough.”
Nizhoni is in love with spaghetti, her Frank Waln shirt, and she has an incurable desire to be internet famous.
Roanhorse is an Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, African-American and Diné-in-law author. This book is an act of love for her daughter.
What separates this book from other kids books is Roanhorse makes it entirely about kids and their emotions. She prioritizes how a kid would respond versus how an adult would want a kid to respond. Nizhoni reacts realistically. She’s not some fantasized version adults have about kids holding in all their emotions.
Roanhorse encourages truthful experiences for kids rather than ones designed to talk down to children. Her books are always political and this one is no different.
Who are the police going to believe? Some random brown kid, or a famous executive with his blond hair and a fancy suit that reeks of money?
Kids books should be political. In Race To the Sun, the politics is in a monster’s ability to shapeshift into a rich white capitalist oil tycoon.
He and his kind will not be happy until they have destroyed the land.
This line strikes me as a reference to the billionaires destruction of the land and the power they’re given in government. Roanhorse knows this power stretches far and wide. But she does so in a way kids can understand more easily. She does it through other kids and she does it through indigenous stories.
Roanhorse is always genius at picking apart what colonialism does to people and what decolonization looks like in indigenous communities.
“These children are different from their ancestors. Just as the trials changed to fit Nizhoni’s imagination, so must the weapons adapt. The ways of the Diné are not static but alive and ever-changing.”
Roanhorse tells a story of survival in this world.
What their ancestors experienced may always be a part of them but colonialism changes and transforms much like Mr. Charles does.
Anyways. This book made me cry and scream and wrecked me to little bits. I want to know more about the Haud Squad. I want to see more landscapes and relationships. I’m especially attached to the complicated relationship Nizhoni has to her family members. It’s a gorgeous love letter from a mother to her daughter. I loved it so very much. This book should be in every library, in every school, in every kid’s hand, especially indigenous kids. I want this book to break records.